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News from Austerityland

by talos Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 03:24:36 AM EST

It's a recent discovery and one that allows me a rather lazy recap of some of the latest developments in Greece: EUobserver's Austerityland blog by Leigh Phillips has probably provided the best English language summaries of recent events in the country and the slide to a defiantly non-democratic version of a permanent emergency state.

In Puppies and Ice Cream Phillips explains the four steps that the Greek (let's face it, extreme-) right wing government employs to contain popular dissent and fight the opposition:

  • Distract attention from the cuts, by stoking up racism
  • Use arcane laws to break strikes (and indeed the government has indicated in the past few days that it wants to go down the road of making legal strikes anything from very difficult to impossible)
  • Accuse your opponents of terrorism (featuring Zizek among others)
  • Crack down on dissidents: squats, social centers and generally "settling accounts with the post-1974 era" as the Public Order Minister announced (that is the period after the fall of the junta)

front-paged by afew


As Leigh Phillips points out this strategy...

In many respects... does come down to a bit of a Hail-Mary pass - the last best hope of a democratic government before it turns into something else, so it's not recommended in anything but the most extreme circumstances. Still, other European leaders should at least familiarise themselves with these tactics should the economic and political stability of their countries ever, Heaven forfend, take a similar turn to that of the Hellenic Republic...

...I admit that all of this may seem like a high-risk strategy - the immigrant round-ups, the use of arcane junta-era laws intended to be used in times of foreign invasion or viral haemorrhagic pandemic in order to break strikes, accusing opponents of terrorist sympathies, and the police crackdowns on dissidents.

But when the state has surrendered all its economic authority to international organisations, and handed much of its civil authority over to black-shirted thugs, how else do you prove to your people that you're still there?

The junta-era laws LP mentions were very quickly reactivated again after he wrote this: This time against striking private sector sailors and seamen who, I should add, were striking both to receive wage arrears that on average were around six months and to demand that the shipowners honor the wage deal that they had signed with the unions and hadn't expired. So people were forcibly conscripted back to the docks to continue working unpaid...  This as LP points out is part of the rise of labour conscription in Europe and the fact that Greece has been eager to come down on unions with such force has as much to do with its mortal fear of being over-run by the communists as well as with signaling its "good boy" status to its "lenders":

...Athens and other peripheral capitals have a credibility problem when it comes to their commitment to pushing through unpopular measures, and many of the toughest labour market `reforms' in much of the periphery have actually yet to be imposed. So it cannot have escaped the Greek prime minister's mind that this is a great way to demonstrate to international lenders his iron determination to enact their demands

Vassal states signaling their subjugation by mass sacrifices of their weakest members: that is today's neoliberal EU, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, 2012.

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Isn't this  a violation of human rights? What would happen if the crew of a ship picked a reasonable South American country, abandoned ship there, and asked for politicial asylum?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 01:01:54 AM EST
Before they do they should work out an arrangement with a reputable law firm in that country to file a lien on the ship for their wages and the wages of all other conscripted 'employees' of that company.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 01:26:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of the seamen involved in the strike work in ferries or at the port (that's why there was a "national emergency": transport from and to the islands were disrupted). So the only foreign countries they will land on are either Italy or Turkey. Ocean going crews usually do not have these issues, their main issue is with collective bargaining (at a time when the shipping tycoons have amassed billions) and tend to be officers nowadays rather than sailors (although that's probably changing). The government subsidizes the shipowners to cover the smaller islands of the Aegean (which they don't do enough of, especially in the winter) so they could easily hold back the subsidies to pay for wage arrears. They could also pressure them on the issue of collective bargaining (but that's something the troika would surely frown on)

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 05:13:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a sweet thought that one crew might effectively use the value of the ship to force an entire company to pay withheld wages to all its seamen. But money is probably thicker than human rights.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 08:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will use this "money is thicker than human rights" line. Excellent.
by redstar on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 08:37:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Glad to amuse.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 09:40:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

*Distract attention from the cuts, by stoking up racism

*Use arcane laws to break strikes (and indeed the government has indicated in the past few days that it wants to go down the road of making legal strikes anything from very difficult to impossible)

Use of racial and class stereotypes is reminiscent of the post WW I USA crackdown on anything to the left of 'mainstream' Republican or Democratic Party politics and employed the newly proven propaganda techniques of The Committee for Public Information, which had figured out how to silence those opposed to the war amongst the Irish and German immigrants during Woodrow Wilson's second term. And a large part of the appeal of Hitler and Mussolini to wealthy elites in the USA and the UK was due to the dispatch with which the fascists dealt with labor unrest. Thugs breaking strikes was a lot cheaper than increasing wages, benefits and working conditions from their point of view. Some things never change.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 08:41:11 AM EST
so will greece get chucked out of the EU because of human rights abuses before its economy finishes crashing?

great diary, talos, many thanks. i shudder to think this is what italy's probably preparing for too.

thanks, troika.


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2013 at 10:23:51 AM EST
It's another instance of financialisation => fascism.

We're pretty much doing the same in the UK, in a slightly milder form.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 08:20:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No one gets thrown out of the EU for human rights abuses. Hungary got more protests for messing with their central bankers than for....everything else really.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 10:54:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
messing with their central bankers


I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 11:46:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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